By Ollie Nash and Liam Melrose
Daniel Johnson has started the season in MVP-type form for Adelaide. Photo: Perth Now
The DJ impact
Most people wrote the Adelaide 36ers off before the season even began. The favorites for the wooden spoon with many saying their lineup doesn’t stack up with the rest of the competition. Insert Daniel Johnson. He has been a star of the NBL for the best part of a decade, however in the opening round he took his game to another level. Averaging 30 points on 66.7% shooting, 4.5 rebounds and two assists. While it was only two games, the signs are strong for the 36ers veteran to have a career best year. With the defence becoming so focused on trying to stop Johnson it only opens up the floor for the rest of the team, providing more open looks for Adelaide’s shooters. If DJ continues to put up these numbers throughout the season don’t be surprised if the 36ers win a lot more games than people expect.
Hunter becomes the hunted
Cairns, the hunter of the 2019-20 season, has become the hunted. With a similar roster coming back, which clearly helps with chemistry and cohesion, they also leave themselves open to be worked out by other teams. The Hawks are the opposite. Completely new roster, new coach, new ownership. Teams don’t know much about them, so they are going to catch other clubs off guard a lot, as they did on Monday night against Cairns in their 92-76 win. I see no issue with the Taipans intent or aggressiveness in their opening two games and I still see them as a finalist. However, life is harder as the hunted and Cairns will need to be hungrier than last season every night to go one step further.
Josh Giddey has been superb in his opening two NBL games. Photo: Mark Brake/Getty Images
Impressive Josh Giddey
The NBL world nearly lost its mind on Sunday afternoon and for a good reason. Josh Giddey was impressive, playing a major role in Adelaide’s 116-108 win over South East Melbourne. 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists to go along with 10 free-throw attempts, an underrated part of his game that NBA scouts will love. He has some work to do with his handles package and athleticism to match NBA defenders, but his IQ is there which gives him such an advantage entering the league.
Could Yanni Wetzell be the find of the season?
South East Melbourne have found themselves a special player in Yanni Wetzell. The 208cm big man was huge for the Phoenix in their 116-108 overtime loss to the Adelaide 36ers, finishing with 24 points and 10 rebounds. With the absence of Dane Pineau until at least mid-February, it couldn’t have worked out better for the Phoenix. Deemed ‘Mr Reliable’ by Corey ‘Homicide’ Williams, Sunday’s game was the first of Wetzell’s professional career, and it couldn’t have started any better. If he keeps up this level of form, South East Melbourne will have some serious headaches selecting their lineup when Pineau returns from injury.
Melbourne's bench was a big source of energy in their opening round win over Adelaide. Photo: Melbourne United
The Melbourne United pine
Melbourne United’s bench was as prominent as their starting unit on Friday night. The energy off the bench was phenomenal, led by Yudai Baba and Shea Ili. United have been hoping for 'Tall-Blacks Shea Ili' since the 2019 FIBA World Cup much like 'Boomers Patty Mills', and it was on show against the Adelaide 36ers, as he finished with 13 points and four rebounds. Explosive Japanese recruit Baba finished with 10 points and four rebounds in just 17 minutes. Jo Lual-Acuil was also great off the bench finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds in just 17 minutes. The balance of this United team looks perfect, and if the bench can continue to put up numbers like they did on Friday they are going to be incredibly hard to beat in 2021.
I’ve bought Dejan Vasiljevic stock
As a veteran or a coach all you want from your young players is consistent effort and confidence. Dejan Vasiljevic brings that in spades and he showed it in Sydney’s one-point loss to Cairns on Saturday night. He finished with 15 points and four boards and whilst he only shot 46 percent from the field and 20 percent from three, it was the little things I noticed. He came off screens with urgency and created open looks for himself that may not have originally been there. He doesn’t look scared of anyone or any big moments on the court. He wants all the smoke. His shooting will come, he was a 37 percent three-point shooter in his four year career at the University of Miami. However, you can’t just start doing all the little things that he does, that’s something engrained in his personality. I’m excited to see him grow with the Kings.
Cover Photo: The Hawks